I’m not sure how many of you have had the chance to test out Routehappy yet, but the site has been live for about a month now, and it is incredibly helpful for trip planning if you care about more than just price and schedule (and you should). Some new features were just released last week which make the site even more useful.
Full disclosure: Before I go into detail, I’ll remind everyone that I am an advisor to the company.
Now, let’s dig in. The idea behind Routehappy is to provide accurate onboard product information (below) to help people pick the flights that are best for them. The raw detail is available on the site, but it also gets rolled up into a “happiness” score that takes into account the entire experience. It doesn’t, however, take price into account when calculating that score.
Though the site has been around in beta for awhile, the real launch was a month ago when the team integrated product info along with real time availability and pricing so you can book the flights you find. It’s a metasearch site that primarily sends people off to Priceline now, but they are adding more direct connections with airlines as they go.
The idea is great, but it is insanely hard to get this right. Every time I spoke with the founder Bob Albert early on, we’d plug in a trip I had coming up and there were inaccuracies. But those inaccuracies ended up becoming more and more minor over time. Since things can change a lot in this industry, the site will never be completely, perfectly accurate. But that’s why it’s important that when people see something wrong, they email the Routehappy team. These guys will constantly be updating the database to make it as accurate as possible.
Let’s walk through a search. One of the easiest ones to do is LA to New York since so many airlines fly it. So let’s see how that looks in coach for some random dates in June. You’re probably not surprised to see Virgin America is at the top of the list. In this case, that’s because the default sort is by happiness and it doesn’t look at price.
Virgin America gets an 8.7 across the board. But why? First, the flights are nonstop. Also, they have audio/video on demand, power, and wifi. The seats also get points for having more legroom than average, but I’m not so sure that it’s noticeable. (JetBlue gets even more points for having more legroom than that, but its lack of power and wifi push it down to an 8.5.)
The last icon shows the experience as being “Good” from user review data. This is based on the experience on the airline but also in the airports on either end for that specific airline.
You can click the “more” button at the end and then get even more detail about what you’ll get on the flight (the first screenshot above). But like I said before, this happiness factor doesn’t take into account the price, and that Virgin America flight is somewhat expensive. Up until now, the only way to get around that was to change it to sort by price and then you get a different result:
As you can see, Delta has one flight that’s a lot cheaper. And it doesn’t have a terrible rating either, especially when compared to the other Delta options there. The big difference in that first result vs Virgin America looks like it’s in the legroom, which is a little less on Delta and in the “Decent” instead of “Good” rating. That should change with Terminal 3 now gone at JFK. But hey, that’s probably worth it to save over a hundred dollars. In this case, the “Cheapest” sort made it easy to find that good option, but that’s no always the case. Sometimes the cheapest options are crappy and the gems are hidden somewhere in the middle.
That’s why Routehappy just launched a “Happy & Cheap” filter which looks at the cheapest flights, but only if they have a decent happiness factor. This first Delta option certainly fits the bill, but there’s a United option ranked even higher.
You might not have seen that United option in the standard search, but if you care about legroom and don’t care about inflight entertainment, then that may be a much better option for only $20 more.
But just looking at these on the surface may not be the best way to really understand the difference. You may want to dig in and do a deeper comparison. That’s the second thing that Routehappy just launched – a comparison function. I remember when we did this at PriceGrabber and I thought it was hugely helpful. Here’s how it looks on the Routehappy site for those Delta and United options.
As you can see, this also points out that the Delta widebody may have a better seating configuration if you’re searching for two people traveling together. You can play with this yourself on Routehappy.com. For some of us hardcore dorks, this is stuff we already know in our heads. But for the general public, this is an easy way to learn the ins and outs of what you’ll get when you fly. And it can help travelers make better decisions beyond just price and schedule.